Rednecks, Mud and Getting Unstuck

This week I’m participating in Seth Godin’s #YourTurnChallenge. My goal is to blog everyday this week (Mon-Sun) here on my site as well as on the challenge’s official Tumblr blog. Here’s my Day 5 submission.

Today’s discussion question (What advice do you have on getting unstuck?) resonates with me because I live in the South. That means sunshine, sweet tea, and plenty of trucks with large tires. For the most part, those trucks belong to young men who seem to enjoy taking their trucks with large tires into places where even trucks with large tires get stuck on occasion.

Usually, when a young Southern male gets his truck with large tires stuck in the mud, the first thing he does is give it more gas. This results in copious amounts of mudslinging, lots of noise, and the large tires sinking deeper into the mudhole.

When this happens, the young Southern male usually gets out of his truck, into the mud, and kicks the tires. This succeeds only in creating a frustrated young Southern male who’s now also covered in mud.

Next, the young Southern male will attempt to push the truck. He will call for others to come and help him push the truck. Now the process has yielded several frustrated young Southern males all covered in mud and who are now all tired.

This leads to cussing. Lots and lots of cussing.

Eventually one of two things will happen: someone will remember the winch on their truck, or they will call someone with a winch on their truck. Either way, someone with a winch will show up and get the truck unstuck. This will lead to cheers from some and hoots of derision from others. The young Southern males will sit on their trucks and laugh about the experience.

And then another young Southern male will drive his truck with large tires into the mudhole to see what happens.

I was never one to go off-roading/mudding. It just seemed like borrowing trouble. I do, however, know the pain of hitting a creative/intellectual/spiritual brick wall, and the lessons are surprisingly the same:

  • It’s okay to take on a challenge, but understand your limitations. Just because you have big tires/lots of successes/a huge ego, it doesn’t mean you should take any risk that comes along. Don’t deliberately seek out places you know will get you stuck unless you have a plan for getting unstuck.
  • When you get stuck, sometimes the more effort you give, the deeper you get. It’s okay to just pause and think about the problem for a while.
  • When you’re just spinning your wheels, the mudslinging gets widespread.
  • Trying to get unstuck alone is futile, but even friends can’t help if everyone repeats your mistakes. There’s a huge difference between asking people to help YOU solve the problem and asking them to HELP you solve the problem. Good leaders understand the subtleties.
  • Cussing doesn’t really accomplish anything. But it might make you feel better.
  • Know who has the winch. It comes in handy to identify the problem solvers (and the folks with the right tools) beforehand. When you can successfully identify who has the right tools to help overcome potential issues, you can take bigger risks.

That last lesson might be the most important of all, and leads to my last piece of advice for getting unstuck: have your own winch.

I doodle. I take walks. I listen to NPR. There are a thousand different ways I change my perspective or environment in order to overcome a creative block. Chances are, you have your own. Write them down, keep them close by, and don’t be afraid to deploy them.

It’ll be cleaner for everybody that way.

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